Peculiarities of Being Human

People everywhere are spending more of their time in online pursuits, connecting with friends, finding friends, playing games, working, or finding work. In an earlier post I had written about the amazing human ability to turn the virtual world into a real world (real in terms of relationships and importance).

Yet, one of the most powerful forms of human bonding is the most ancient. Sitting around a table with friends, protected from the elements by food, drink, and friendship. In the rush to the “always on” virtual, we should never forget that the old ways are most often the best.

This clip is from the excellent Russian movie Peculiarities of the National Hunt in Winter (title sounds way better in Russian) and it always makes me smile when I see it. It’s a perfect example not just of the unique warmth of Russian (and Georgian) traditions (which is where the dancing and the songs come from) but of that most elemental part of being human.

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Thanks Seth!

Special thanks to Seth Godin for poking holes in assumptions. In this case, it was mine. That a specific media tool, in this case RSS, was irrelevant. Seth was right. Nothing is dead because its’ inherent value is in how creative minds can make use of it.

That said, what is dead is the concept of one-way conversations. The old marketing method of a one-way media campaign in which consumers sit dumbly while sucking down tasty but low-calorie content are over.

Consumers are people. They expect to be acknowledged as such, and want an opportunity to engage on their terms with their chosen brands and services. In return, they will reward them with earned loyalty.

So with that said, I pronounce email marketing as dead…

Pros & Cons of Social Media Engagement

Pros and Cons of Social Media Engagement


1.       Social media (as defined by current tools and platforms – increasing use of smart phone, online networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, WordPress, Tumblr, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) has sparked a demand by customers for companies and organizations to be accessible via the social media space. It is a space that must be filled.

2.       Social media tools are inexpensive and ubiquitous allowing for one-to-many conversations with customers to be ramped up quickly.

3.       Provides direct access to customers and creates an opportunity to build individual relationships with the company and the brand.


1.       Social media is becoming so pervasive that there is a risk of content overload. Preparation is required to ensure that messaging has high quality to be heard over the din. At the same time, too long in preparation and internal buy-in raises the risk that when the content is released it will no longer be relevant. Social media is a fine line.

2.       Social media engagements require a higher degree of expertise in their creation and execution as the “one-to-many” communication cuts across a variety of demographics. What’s cool in New Jersey may not be so in Singapore.

3.       Social media raises the bar of consumer expectations and too early an execution by a company leads to the risk of disappointment which will be magnified in the online space. Prep the organization for the brave new world.


Fails: (not being ready to truly engage) (not being real and being accountable) (come to battle prepared)

Wins: (responded quickly and effectively to customer backlash which was magnified by social media) (companies win when they go live with a product that they feel passionate about) (the right levels of humor connect across many demographics – but remember point 2 in Cons) (big companies can create valuable customer-to-brand relationships; big and being “cool” can happen)



Social Media Is Not Social Media

The term “social media” is being thrown around a lot and, while rightfully so, there seems to be a mis-understanding about what that term means.

Social media consists of the apps and platforms that enable a “one-to-many” conversation between people, groups, and organizations. It is a low-cost entry point. Social media is allows us to be heard.

Beyond that, though, social media is a call to action. It’s not just a series of platforms in which a company or organization can continuously funnel its content to a supine audience (that we call old-school TV advertising…).

Rather it is a social contract between individuals and groups that essentially says,”I’m going to talk then you’re going to talk and together we’ll work on a solution that makes us both happy.”

Social media is a company’s commitment to engage in open and clear conversation with customers and the wider community. Responding to input from fans, customers, and detractors with real commitment or even an honest refusal if the input doesn’t make sense.

Beyond the external conversation comes the equally-valuable internal changes. Organizations who rested comfortably behind walls built on help-desk tickets and customer service requests with long turn-around times and ready-made templates are being dragged out into a world in which conversations and customers are fast and furious.

To stay relevant an organization will have to streamline its’ internal communications and decision-making, hold everyone from the top-down to their commitments, and be willing to learn and grow in a dynamic way. As increasing numbers of people get connected and learn how to navigate the social media spectrum, these practices will become increasingly apparent.

It all sounds good but for most it will be an uncomfortable adjustment as their processes and decision-making have been cloaked in the shadow of organization “tradition” and as their key decision-makers have made a career of hiding behind press released and one-way ad marketing campaigns.

However, for companies that have created a culture of accountability and creativity and have embraced openness, setting success higher than individual ego, this brave new world will only bring greater things for them, their employees, and their shareholders.